Culture & Society

Book Excerpt: I See The Face

This is an excerpt from the Bengali novel, I See The Face (2006), by Shahidul Zahir (1953–2008), of Bangladesh. Translated by V. Ramaswamy. The enchanted world weaved by Shahidul Zahir spins out and sprawls like a fine embroidered quilt, and V. Ramaswamy’s translation becomes one with the original text. 

I see the face...
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When Nurani Bilkis Upoma said that Khoimon was very greedy, it was apt, perhaps Khoimon was really greedy, but it was difficult to say why she was so greedy, perhaps this was something she was born with, perhaps the matter of this disposition expressed itself soon after her birth, when she was an infant, perhaps she sucked the nipples of her mother Jorimon’s fat, swollen breasts continuously for seven or ten days until they were sore, and perhaps Jorimon said, ‘Eita kemun maiya hoilo allah, rakkosh niki! God, what kind of girl is this, is she an ogress or what!’

But perhaps it wasn’t so, perhaps Khoimon was only a tiny, bundle-like, innocent and cuddly girl; and her dad, Abdul Jalil, and brother, Rashidul, went around carrying her in the crook of their arms and danced with her on their heads and after that, when she grew up, they said, ‘Tuiborohoyageliga, haay khoda, awkhon tawre loya amra ki kori! You’ve gone and grown up, oh God, what are we to do with you now!’

Khoimon was plaiting her hair then, she heard Abdul Jalil, she heard Rashidul, and perhaps she then said, ‘Jamoneloykoro! Do whatever you want!’

Abdul Jalil then pulled her into his arms, ‘Tui amar ma hawchna? Aren’t you my precious?’

Khoimon thought that she was indeed Abdul Jalil’s precious, and she replied, ‘Hoi toh, Of course I am!’

After that she grew up some more, her hips swelled, and she developed breasts, and then Abdul Jalil again said, ‘You’ve grown up, girl, oh what am I to do with you’, but this time, Khoimon didn’t speak; perhaps Abdul Jalil drew her close once again, placed his arms around her shoulders and said, ‘Aren’t you my precious?’ Khoimon was silent once again, and Abdul Jalil then realised, so at night he said to his wife, Jorimon, ‘Maiya dekhi chup maira gechhe, kotha jigai, kunu ra korena. I observed our girl turn silent, I asked her something but she didn’t say anything at all.’

Then, on the advice of Jorimon, Abdul Jalil and Rashidul set out to find a boy for Khoimon, they searched here, there and everywhere, they searched in the north and in the south, and then after all that searching, they found MoynaMiya in Thattaribajar. Someone said, perhaps it was Babul Miya, ‘There’s a boy, he’s handsome and tall, just like a prince, he must be from somewhere like Bikrampur, he has a shop in Thattaribajar, go and meet him.’

Hearing Babul’s recommendation, Abdul Jahir was eager, although he was only a shopkeeper; and perhaps after that Jorimon too was pleased to hear about it from Abdul Jalil, and then one night, when Jorimon told Khoimon about Moyna Miya, Khoimon trembled, she felt feverish, she saw a merchant’s son, like from the film, Arun Barun O Kiranmala, standing before her, and then she felt drowsy. But it occurred to Khoimon that she wouldn’t marry any shopkeeper, even if he was a prince or the son of a merchant, she would rather marry a peon or a watchman in some office, or a school clerk. Nevertheless, they went one day to meet MoynaMiya, perhaps Babul Miya accompanied them, and they found MoynaMiya when they advanced a bit towards Kaptanbajar after going past Thattaribajar, he sat waiting for customers on the pavement with a basket of potatoes, pointed gourds, and two or four or ten large-sized ash gourds smeared with lime. Abdul Jalil realised that he had been deceived, MoynaMiya was like flotsam, and there was no question of getting his daughter married to him; Jorimon too was of the same view, she said, ‘Babul bhaiy eemun thok baji korlo! Babul bhai cheated us like this!’
 

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Khoimon (A creative) Shutterstock

But Khoimon felt dejected then, she couldn’t figure out why this man had to be a vegetable seller and sit with a basket of bollocks ash gourds in the market, waiting for useless customers, why was Moyna Miya not a watchman or a peon or a school clerk rather than a vegetable seller, and thinking about that made her lose her appetite, she slept poorly, and she had dark circles around her large eyes! Then one day her Ma observed that her daughter’s plight was dire, so she said, ‘Hey Khoi, what’s happened to you?’

But Khoi didn’t say anything. Perhaps Abdul Jalil and Jorimon realised what the matter was, they said, ‘Just you see, we’ll search and get such a fine boy for you!’ They set out in all directions in search of a groom, but it was difficult to find a good match for the daughter of the paan and biri seller, Abdul Jalil, until finally Babul Miya arrived once again; match-making wasn’t his profession, he did it out of love, he looked at Abdul Jalil and spoke to him about Khoimon’s marriage, he said, ‘Moyna Miya is a good boy, he’s an independent vendor, what’s wrong with that, what’s the problem with selling ash gourds, at least he isn’t a thief, maybe he sits with a basket beside the street, but he’ll certainly not be sitting in such a place for long, his circumstances will surely improve, if he sells a basketful of thirty ash gourds at seven or eight takas each, perhaps he makes a profit of two takas a day, if he spends eight annas for his meals, he’ll make a taka-and-a-half each day, that’s forty-five takas a month and five-hundred-and-forty takas a year – a lot of money – and then by bribing the market committee, perhaps he’ll find a bit of place in a niche inside the vegetable market very soon, after that perhaps he’ll even have a permanent shop inside the vegetable market, and perhaps after that he’ll have a provisions store or a ration shop – that could well happen, who can say, tell me, can’t that happen, after all, how many people are rich from the time they’re born!’ Abdul Jalil listened to all this talk, but he didn’t seem to be interested as far as MoynaMiya was concerned, a vegetable seller was merely a vegetable seller, and after all, what could his savings amount to? Perhaps he was a pauper; Babul Miya then spoke about HumayunKabir, he lived in South Moishundi and ran a ration shop in Shahsaheb Lane, he wore gold buttons on his punjabi, ‘He’s a fine boy, he’ll be a good match for Khoimon.’ Abdul Jalil then considered the matter at length with Jorimon, they discussed and analysed in detail what might transpire and what might not, and then they spoke to Khoimon about the matter, but Khoimon was in a quandary when she heard that, she thought that HumayunKabir was a far better name than MoynaMiya, or maybe it was MoynaMiya that was a better name – the name of a bird, the mynah; but she felt dejected at the fact that HumayunKabir was the owner of a ration shop, she couldn’t understand why vegetable sellers and ration shop owners were the only matches that were found for her! Nevertheless, Khoimon accompanied her parents one afternoon to the ration shop in Shahsaheb Lane to meet HumayanKabir; perhaps HumayunKabir didn’t realise the reason for the arrival of the group, and he asked, ‘Apnera koi thon aichhen? What brings you here?’

Abdul Jalil then made up a lot of things, and perhaps he was successful in making HumayunKabir ill-at-ease with his irrelevant talk, or perhaps he wasn’t able to fool him and HumayunKabir figured out the matter; be that as it may, whether HumayunKabir understood or not, they had seen what they had come for, and they didn’t like Humayun Kabir. Although he was the owner of a ration shop, the man was too old, his hair was scanty, and on making enquiries, Abdul Jalil found out that HumayunKabir was looking for a girl for his third marriage, both his earlier wives had died, but he had no children borne of these wives, and so even if he was single, he was free of any encumbrances. Babul Miya explained to him, ‘What’s wrong with him?’ And so although Abdul Jalil was in two minds about the matter, it was a real wrench for Jorimon’s Ma: after all it was her beloved daughter, so she again remarked, ‘Babul bhai did this to us? He’s brought a chap who’s a doddering widower!’

But even after that, the matter of HumayunKabir being the proprietor of a ration shop was of great relevance, they could not forget the fact that the girl would live in comfort if she married him, and perhaps Jorimon then spoke to Khoimon about this, but Khoimon remained silent; a day went by, two days went by, and on the fifth day, Jorimon became restless, she called her daughter and asked her, ‘Tui kawta kochna kyala? Why don’t you say anything?’

Khoimon then said, ‘I’ll marry Moyna Miya, make the arrangements.”

But in this country, a girl’s marriage couldn’t be accomplished merely by her consent; before this, Khoimon had gone with her parents and brother to see MoynaMiya, now it was MoynaMiya who came to see her at their residence in Ghost Lane. MoynaMiya arrived one evening at their two-roomed residence at No. 36 Ghost Lane, he came alone, or perhaps the match-maker, Babul Miya, had accompanied him; so that evening, Khoimon Begum came wearing a sari and with a ghomta drawn over her head to the outer room, and sat down on a vacant wooden stool, and through the gap in her ghomta, she studied MoynaMiya closely in the light of the hurricane-lantern; there was no end to her disappointment. MoynaMiya was dark-skinned, but he had a sharp nose, his eyes were like two pebbles submerged in a limpid pool, and his arms were muscular; once again it occurred to Khoimon that this man sold vegetables, that he sat like a simpleton on the edge of the road with ash gourds – how amazing! At night, Khoimon vividly recalled MoynaMiya’s youthful body, and her sleeplessness worsened; Jorimon and Abdul Jalil then hoped that they would come to know very soon about MoynaMiya’s decision, but MoynaMiya didn’t say anything; didn’t he like Khoimon? Had he got lost? Abdul Jalil then rushed to Babul Miya, ‘Babul bhai, he hasn’t said anything yet!’

Perhaps Babul Miya too was waiting for Moyna to tell him something, but Moyna Miya hadn’t spoken to him either, and so Babul Miya himself went one day to meet MoynaMiya at Thattaribajar and asked him, ‘What’s up? You saw the girl, why aren’t you saying anything!’

Moyna Miya then told him that he hadn’t been able to see anything of Khoimon’sghomta-drawn face in the dim light of the hurricane lantern, so how would he know what the girl looked like, and whether he liked her or not! Abdul Jalil and Jorimon heard about this, as did Rashidul; Khoimon was their beloved daughter and much-adored sister, they got angry when there was mention of showing the girl again to the vegetable seller, the wretched lowly chap, they said, ‘Amago maiya rastay kuraya paichhi nihi, baare baare dekhamu! Did we pick up our girl from the street that we’ll show her again and again!’

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They turned down the proposal of showing the girl again and thought that they had thereby saved her from a calamitous and grave humiliation; perhaps Jorimon then told Khoimon about all this one evening or night, perhaps Jorimon was applying coconut oil on her hair and plaiting it, she made a single thick plait that hung over her back, with a red satin ribbon flower at the top, and said, ‘He says he couldn’t see her properly, the donkey, is our child some orphan who came floating on the river that we’ll show her again!’

***

Perhaps Khoimon had eventually to resort to guile in order to marry Moyna Miya, the vegetable seller in Thattaribajar, she was perhaps 16-17 then, because girls were married early then, or perhaps she was older, 20-22, but in Zobeida Rahman’s words, ‘She was too old, no one liked her once they saw her.’ And regardless of whether she was 16-17 or 20-22, after MoynaMiya came to view her, he said that he hadn’t been able to see her at all; MoynaMiya may have been upto some mischief, after all, does anyone say something like that after viewing a girl? How amazing! Consequently, Khoimon’s parents’ ire was justified, but however angry they appeared to be and blustered, Khoimon’s days just didn’t seem to pass, nights seemed unending, there were dark circles under her large eyes like at the bottom of a cooking pot, and she thought that perhaps MoynaMiya was actually being naughty, that perhaps he had seen her alright, and perhaps he simply wanted to see her once more. Her Ma, Jorimon, remonstrated, ‘It’s not so cheap, we don’t show our daughter again and again’, but just after that she turned speechless when she looked at Khoimon’s face, and she asked, ‘What’s happened to you, Khoi?’

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Khoi replied, ‘If he wants to see me, call him again!’

Jorimon then told that to Abdul Jalil, who told it to Babul Miya, and the worth of MoynaMiya, who sat on the road in Thattaribajar with vegetables adorning his basket, could be gauged in this Bengali land, but he didn’t fuss any more, if he did that Khoimon Begum would have wept, or perhaps she would have gone to Thattaribajar and asked him, ‘Why are you doing this?’ But he did no more, he only wanted to see Khoimon once more, and so he arrived once again at Khoimon’s house in Ghost Lane. That is when the incident took place, and perhaps it was because of this that Mrs Zobeida Rahman said so many things about her, because perhaps the incident had been pre-arranged, and Khoimon had arranged it together with the moholla kids; or perhaps it hadn’t been pre-arranged, perhaps it was merely a matter of coincidence. That evening, Moyna Miya, who was clad in shirt-and-trousers and wore plastic shoes, walked down the lane adjoining the temple, while Khoimon once again lit a kerosene lamp in the outer room of the house on No. 36, and waited like a female spider – a black-widow spider that had spread out a web of threads to catch prey, and was sitting still in the centre. Moyna Miya advanced. He passed the house on No. 25, and perhaps it was the rainy season then, so he got the heavy fragrance of kamini flowers emanating from inside that house, and after that he walked by the tiger-gated house on No. 32, and he saw that on each side of the paved terrace in front of the house was a platform on which a tiger made of cement sat with its head raised; after that, when he arrived in front of the house on No. 36, a bunch of kids suddenly came running from who knows where, making an uproar, and just then a dog too landed up from somewhere, and the end of the stocky, well-rounded dog’s tail was cut; as MoynaMiya was about to go through the gate of Khoimon’s house and enter, the kids set the dog upon him, they stretched their arms and pointing towards Moyna Miya, they screamed, ‘Shoo Tommy, shoo, shoo!’

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Springing up threateningly, the dog then sought to jump upon Moyna Miya, so he began to run in fear, and entering the house he went into the room – where Khoimon Begum was waiting, having just lit a hurricane-lantern. But MoynaMiya’s misfortunes didn’t end even after entering the room, he stumbled over the door-sill in the semi-darkness and fell with a crash on the cot, and after that when he had gathered himself and his eyes had adjusted to the room’s darkness, he saw in the dim light of the hurricane-lantern that his body was pressed over Khoimon’s body – perhaps Khoimon reprimanded him then, ‘Ki koren, shoren! What are you doing, get off me!’

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Or perhaps she gazed at Moyna Miya’s aquiline nose and small chin as he pressed down on her and said, ‘Amare niki apne dekhen naika, awkhon e deikha lawn, abar koyen na je harikol battir aloy chokkhe dekhen naika kichhu! I believe you couldn’t see me last time, see me now, and don’t say again that you couldn’t see anything in the dim light of the hurricane-lantern!’

 

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Hurricane. Shutterstock

It’s difficult to say what Moyna Miya did then, perhaps he fondled Khoimon’s tender, young body and Khoimon felt as if her soul had departed her, perhaps Khoimon said, ‘Please marry me, Moyna Miya, after you buy vegetables from Shyambajar, I’ll sort and wash and clean them, you don’t have to do anything, you just rest awhile, have a paan, smoke a beeri, puff on your hookah, and after that I’ll wind a gamchha around for your head and lift the basket up for you to carry to the market, but if even that’s difficult for you, if you find it too heavy, I’ll carry the basket on my head and walk behind you while you lead the way, I’ll lay out and arrange your shop and then return home, and once there, I’ll cook rice for you, make a curry for you, I’ll make whatever you feel like eating, and when you finish the vending you’ll eat lunch, I’ll sit close to you with a palm-leaf fan, so please marry me’; or perhaps Khoimon’s soul didn’t depart her, and MoynaMiya hurriedly got off Khoimon’s body and went and sat in a corner of the cot and said, ‘The kids are so terrible, they set a dog upon me!’

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‘Did you frighten them?’

‘No, why would I frighten them, the kids are simply monsters!’

Khoimon left the room and returned with a bowl of rice-payesh prepared by Jorimon, she brought a glass of sherbet made with RoohAfza, and MoynaMiya had the payesh, making a clinking sound as his spoon scraped against the porcelain bowl, he drank the sherbet making a glugging sound, and Khoimon watched him eat; she then moved her face forward, close to the light from the hurricane-lantern placed on the table, and gazed at him, her eyes said, ‘Look at me’, her face said, ‘Look at me’, her bent, hazy figure said, ‘Look at me again, MoynaMiya!’ Perhaps MoynaMiya gazed at her once, and then when he exited after eating the rice-payesh, he told Babul Miya, ‘Make arrangements for the wedding, and ask the girl’s father what he’ll give me’, and when Mamun’s Ma, Mrs ZobeidaRahman told FakhrulAlamLedu these things, Ledu asked her, ‘How do you know this?’

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‘Hey, wouldn’t I know? Don’t we live in the same moholla!’

So Khoimon got married to MoynaMiya, and perhaps this took place before the Liberation War of 1971, because when war broke out on the night of the twenty-fifth of March, Chan Miya was probably in Khoimon’s womb, maybe she had come to full-term, and so when everyone in the mohalla fled towards Cumilla or Jinjira out of fear of the Pakistani army, it wasn’t possible for Khoimon to leave home. When the moholla was completely deserted, Jorimon became terribly anxious, Abdul Jalil too became perturbed; then, thinking that rather than all of them remaining in the moholla and dying, Jorimon stayed at home with her daughter, while Abdul Jalil went with his son and his son-in-law and took shelter in Jorimon’s uncle’s or aunt’s house in the village of Chorail, in Jinjira. The people who had fled Dhaka were trapped in Jinjira by the Pakistani army, like mice caught in a crevice; and once the women, men, elderly folk and children from Dhaka gathered there, the army launched an operation.

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***

When Babul Miya fixed Khoimon’s marriage, Abdul Jalil and Jorimon were incensed upon hearing the boy’s dowry demand, they said, ‘Eita kemun pola, koy jigan amare ki dibo, What kind of fellow is this, he says “Ask them what they’ll give me!”’, and they were certain that the boy wasn’t a decent sort, he was climbing on their heads, and so they once again said that their girl was not so cheap that she had to be married off to a vegetable-seller by paying a dowry, ‘Dimunabiyamaiyyar, We’d rather not get the girl married.’ 

But Khoimon was not as agitated, she said, ‘Ask him what he wants, give him whatever he wants!’

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Moyna Miya demanded half of their house, and Khoimon was in tears when she heard that, she cried and cried, there was no end to her crying, and she thought – what kind of a man is this, he was merely a vegetable seller, not a watchman in any office, nor a peon, not even a school clerk, he’s a pauper, and he wants half of a house built on a katha of land in the city of Dhaka! When Khoimon couldn’t stop crying, Babul Miya arrived, he thought over the matter, and he had no doubt that the village boy was extremely imprudent, he could have asked for the money to set up a provisions store, he could have asked for the earnest money to start some other business, but instead of doing that he straightaway made a bid to grab at their vitals, and so Babul Miya spoke once again about Humayun Kabir, and hearing him say that, Khoimon stopped crying at once, and she said to her Ma, ‘Give him what he wants, give him whatever’s my share, after all it’ll remain mine!’

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Abdul Jalil and Jorimon finally agreed to that, Rashidul didn’t object, and on the wedding day itself Abdul Jalil wiped his tears and put his zigzagging signature at the bottom of the transfer deed made out on a sheet of white, foolscap paper, and MoynaMiya uttered ‘kabool’, or “I agree to the marriage” only after that. This was how Mochhammat Khoimon got married, and on the nuptial night, the first thing she asked MoynaMiya was, ‘How could you do something like that!’

‘What did I do?’

‘Why did you ask for the house to be transferred in your name in order to marry me?’

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‘You set a dog upon me, so I took the house.’

Perhaps Khoimon wondered whether the man was a soothsayer, how had he found out that she had done that! Or perhaps she was surprised, and wondered what the man was saying, what dog, why would she set a dog upon him, amazing!

‘She asked, ‘Why would I set a dog upon you!’

‘I know you did!’

But perhaps Moyna Miya was yet to learn about Khoimon, and so when Moyna Miya entered the bedroom that night, Khoimon realised that there was a sheet of paper inside his punjabi pocket, and she thought that it must be the transfer deed for half of the house, the man didn’t even have a place to keep that piece of paper and such a man had done this deed! Be that as it may, perhaps Abdul Jalil said, ‘Maiyar mukher dike takaya korlam, I saw my girl’s face and did it’; perhaps Jorimon was heavy-hearted, but still thought, ‘We were obliged to get our daughter married!’ It seemed then that perhaps Moyna Miya talked a bit excessively to Khoimon on the wedding night because the demand for property transfer by the vegetable seller Moyna Miya was indeed something excessive, and so, for that reason, or because of stress owing to the wedding, it was a sad Khoimon, wearing a red Benarasi or some other red sari, who was sitting on the nuptial bed, perhaps the look on Abdul Jalil’s face while signing on the house transfer deed too had upset her greatly – yet even after all that she was waiting for something joyful. But she didn’t like it when Moyna Miya accused her of setting a dog upon him, and when the night advanced a bit and Moyna Miya was busy preparing for the first intercourse, Khoimon was silent at first, and then she said, ‘What do you have in your punjabi pocket, it’s making a rustling sound?’

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Moyna Miya didn’t say anything, so Khomon once again said, ‘Why don’t you take the paper out and put it on the table?’

Having lost his senses in his state of arousal, Moyna Miya did just that, he took out the thick sheet of paper kept folded inside his pocket and placed it on the table beside the bed, and then after he finished his business he lay on his side or on his back and Khoimon hurriedly got up and did various things, she drank water from the jug kept on the table, she gave the jug to MoynaMiya too, and as she did that she caused an accident, the jug wobbled and fell on its side, the water in the jug spilled on the table and soaked the deed of MoynaMiya’s suddenly acquired house; Moyna Mia asked, ‘What happened?’

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Khoimon didn’t reply, and perhaps Moyna Miya was tired, so he too kept quiet, and after that they fell asleep, or didn’t sleep, and after a long time MoynaMiya again asked, ‘What happened?’ And then Khoimon said that the water in the jug had spilled on the table, and perhaps even then MoynaMiya didn’t realise what had happened. MoynaMiya got out of bed after a long time and he saw Khoimon sleeping on the cot, curled up next to the wall, and then as he turned up the wick of the hurricane lantern and was about to leave the room to piss, he noticed that the land title lying on the table, made out by his father-in-law, was drenched and destroyed! His heart almost stopped beating, and when he raised the wick of the lantern some more and tried to pick up the document, it came apart because it had been drenched with water for a long time; he cried out, and after that he carefully unfolded the document and laid it out on the table and observed it, perhaps the ink in Abdul Jalil’s pen wasn’t permanent either, perhaps it was the Hero Royal Washable Blue ink, and so all the writing had been washed away by the water, nothing remained except for some blue smudges! MoynaMiya, the boy from Bikrampur, the tall, dark-skinned, sharp-nosed vegetable-seller sobbed uncontrollably, of course Khoimon was woken up by his crying, she hurriedly sat up on the cot and asked, ‘What are you doing? What are you up to?’, and then everyone woke up from the next room and entered, they saw the new groom drowning in tears on the nuptial night; but MoynaMiya was unable to say anything, so Khoimon then consoled him, ‘Apne kainden na emun koira, ekta kagoj gechhe, aarekta leikha dibone! Don’t cry like this, one piece of paper was lost, I’ll get another one made!’ And consequently, it seemed there was a reason behind the fact that Zobeida Rahman got exasperated when it came to Khoimon, but again perhaps it could be said that Khoimon hadn’t really done anything cunning, that was simply how things transpired and she had nothing to do with it – although it was very difficult to prove this. However, if Khoimon was indeed cunning, it wasn’t possible to figure out how Mamun’s Ma was harmed by that, of course when her son Chan Miya organised the monkey brigade in the moholla many years later, it seemed then that even before figuring it out logically Zobeida Rahman had a gut feeling about some things – what the monkeys would do to her one day – although the matters were perhaps not very clear to her. It seemed then that badmouthing Khoimon was all that she did, perhaps she said to Fakhrul Alam Ledu or to someone else, ‘Just see how cunning the woman is, since she doesn’t have the time to take care of the boy, how cleverly she got a band of wild animals to do that, “Khaat tawra, ami aram kori! You lot work, let me relax!”’; and so a monkey suckled Chan Miya, put him to sleep, kept watch over him, while that wretched woman gallivanted in the moholla! This was perhaps true, or perhaps it wasn’t, because it wasn’t possible to get so much done by wild monkeys, but hadn’t Khoimon herself said all this to NooraniBilkisUpoma? Although NooraniBilkis got annoyed from time to time, it was she who Khoimon was fond of, and whenever she got the chance she went from her residence in No. 36 to Noorani Bilkis’ residence in No. 37, and said, ‘Aafa, give me something or the other!’

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(Shahidul Zahir was born in 1953 in Dhaka, then in East Pakistan. He did his schooling in Dhaka, Mymensingh and Chittagong, graduated from Dhaka College and completed his post-graduation at Dhaka University and the American University, Washington D.C. He was a civil servant in the Bangladesh government. His first collection of short stories was published in 1985. Zahir died prematurely in 2008 having written three collections of short stories, two novels and two novellas, the last novella being published the year following his death. His work has been critically acclaimed in Bangladesh and in West Bengal, India.)

(V. Ramaswamy took up literary translation of voices from the margins after two decades of social activism and grassroots organising with the labouring poor in his city, Kolkata. He has translated Subimal MIsra, Manoranjan Byapari, Adhir Biswas and Shaidul Zahir.)

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